Now more than ever …

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

~ Matthew 21: 9

animal cute donkey nature
Photo by Nilina on Pexels.com

We all make mistakes.

We all get scared.

We all experience loneliness.  And right now?  

Together, we are all undergoing an unprecedented time of mandated isolation; an unheard era of significant transition at lightning speed.

Overnight, our community gatherings have been closed and we have had to adjust.  Our daily routines have been smashed to shreds, and we have had to adjust.  For many, our very means of sustenance (income, food, shelter) have been utterly upended, and we have had to adjust.  

It’s a time of anxiety, loneliness, and fear.

It’s a time of hoarding and grasping to hold onto certainty. 

It’s a time of unknowns and seeking answers to questions that don’t have answers yet.  Or ever.

All of this fast shifting and upheaval has brought to mind conversations that I continue to have with some young people in my life.  There is this thing that I say to my own children when they are concerned that something they have done will “take my love away.”  Or something that they have done will make them somehow “less lovable.”  Or that someone will come into my life — or our lives — that will ”take some love away from them” in order to “give that love” to this new person.

When I first encountered these questions, I didn’t really know what to say except that I would love them no matter what.  Then, we talked some more, and these are the words that started forming in response:

“Love isn’t something that has an end to it.  Love only gets bigger and bigger.”

And this is what I am reminded of — in these times that we are all undergoing, together —- as we read once more the Palm Sunday verses —  love isn’t finite.  I am reminded of this all because right now?  there is a much more prevalent understanding of our love in our lives, in our communities, in our surrounding culture.

It is an understanding that love is something finite.

It is an understanding that there is an end to love, an end of love.

It is an understanding the love is a commodity.

It is an understanding that love can be earned or bought or sold or exchanged.

It is an understanding that love is a human construct that we can control and dole out or take away at will.

But, Jesus entry into Jerusalem teaches us — albeit — in a very large, jubilant way — that love isn’t ours.  We didn’t create love, and we don’t end love.  

God is love.  God brought each one of us into the world out of love.  God will end our human lives with the freedom of death to be resurrected into life eternal.

And on this Palm Sunday, we retell and reaffirm now more than ever that this is who we trust God to be and what we trust love to be.

Jesus doesn’t enter the city on a warhorse in a ticker-tape parade, and with a mighty army in tow.  Rather, he enters Jerusalem on a low-bred donkey, on a path of thrown-down cloaks and last-minute-grabbed-palms.  This is the path of love that Jesus walks.

A path of where the poor and the rich walk together.

A path where the community steps up, stays-at-home, and makes masks.

A path where within days, 1,000’s of schoolteachers learned new ways of teaching and parents learned new ways of working.

A path where children write cards to the homebound and folks step up to deliver groceries.

A path where the very sidewalks are chalked with artwork scribbles proclaiming that we are Stronger Together.

I have this image in my head that if Jesus were to come into Long Beach today, his donkey would walk over rainbow chalk art, and the path would be riddled with our most-prized commodity —  Toilet Paper.

This is love.

This is God at work.

And?  this is not a commodity.  

It’s not something to be bought or sold.

It’s not something finite to be hoarded up, withheld or rationed out.

There’s always enough love to share and there’s always room for our hearts to grow bigger.

To some extent?  Maybe that can be our greatest focus right now.  

(I don’t know about you but I’m truthfully overwhelmed with the options of how productive I could be – the things I could be doing with all of this enforced “free” time … which actually isn’t “free” at all.  I’m still working (in all sort of new ways), making meals, and guiding my children at home while living through global pandemic.  How about you?)

But maybe this is it.  Maybe we need this message more than ever.  Today.  In the midst of a global pandemic.

Because?  Maybe this Palm Sunday, we are called more than ever to speak out, in all the ways that we can, what love is and what love is not.  What love looks like in the midst of a global pandemic.  That Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the events of our ensuing Holy Week negates thoroughly the understanding of love as finite or love as a commodity.

Jesus us shows the very essence of love in today’s verses from Matthew, and the events of Holy Week.  

This past week, Pastor Mark and I learned once again (week two!) how to lead online small groups via Skype and Zoom.  There were definitely bumps, blunders and frustrations along the way.  It is not the same as meeting in person, no doubt!  But?  There was community forming and continuing to walk and grow together.  There was laughter and hope and persistence.  It was clearly evident once again… our very human need to convene and be together.

This is love.

This is God at work.

In the small groups that I lead, as we discussed the verses from Matthew and the ensuing ones describing Holy Week, what came up again and again? was that Jesus knew he was to be betrayed and he stayed.  Jesus knew that the very people closest to him, his “tribe” – the disciples – were going to betray him.  Judas, Peter, the whole lot of them?  They were going to betray and deny Jesus, and in fact, be the key perpetrators of his most brutal death on a cross.

And still?  Jesus stayed.

He walked the path with God that was set before him.

There will be times — right now, every day, maybe every hour when we will make mistakes; when we will express frustration and anger in maybe less than helpful ways; when we are fearful; when we doubt and ask why.  When we experience loneliness and deep, deep fear.

In those times, I would like to ask you to remember the following:

Jesus entered Jerusalem to the laudatory shouts of the crowd.  Jesus walked the path – celebrating the Seder with his close circle – and continued onward.  Together with the very people who would hurt him to the death.

God loves us in our fear.  God loves us in our loneliness.  God loves us in our betrayals and denials of God’s goodness in this world.

This is an unending love.  This is a love that only grows bigger and bigger.  A love that grows so big that it is well beyond our comprehension.

Jesus entered humbly, peacefully, into Jerusalem, knowing that he was entering into the final days of his life with us all.   

Jesus stayed.

He walked the path with God that was set before him.

He stuck with it until the very end, and showed us how this is done.

None of us — except a few of our elder most elders — have walked through a global pandemic before.  

God has.  And God will.

This is love.

This is God at work.

Now more than ever, this is our time to lean into and lift up — this exact message.  The message alone won’t provide the COVID-19 vaccine that we desperately need … but it will bring the human science to the forefront and invite the willingness, cooperation and collaboration of the science industry to the forefront to get the job done.  It will empower the child chalk art and the folks at their mask-making sewing machines and the front-line doctors, nurses, technicians, and their families.  It will offer messages of much needed gratitude to our community leaders and ”thinking of you” notes to those who might be a little lonely.

This is love.

This is God at work.

Amen.

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